JUBAIL, SAUDI ARABIA: This is with reference to your editorial of March 9 titled “Drone myth put to rest”. I think the information shared by the General Officer Commanding 7-Division, Major-General Ghayur Mehmood, who is in charge of troops in North Waziristan, should silence many a Pakistan right-wing media pundit and politico-religious party. The military officer said on record that “many of those killed in drone strikes were terrorists and a sizable number were foreigners”.
According to the information he gave, 164 drone strikes took place between 2007 and 2011, in which 964 terrorists were killed, including 171 foreigners who were Uzbeks, Tajiks, Arabs, Chechens, Filipinos, Moroccans etc. The general did say that there were clearly some negative aspects to drone attacks in that they scared the local population and caused them to migrate to other areas.
But what really is the choice if our own security forces cannot secure Fata? The lawless region has been left neglected for decades with the result that it is much more underdeveloped than the rest of the country. This has also meant that foreigners and extremist groups from inside Pakistan have sought refuge in Fata and now vast chunks of it are in the control of extremists and terrorists.
In this I would agree with Asad Munir who wrote on these pages recently, saying that since the government did nothing in response to the rise of the Taliban in the late 1990s, the local tribes had little choice but to side with them. Pakistan has no other choice but to fight back and it is precisely because of this reason that the drones are a good thing — they are an effective way to eliminate the terrorists. The media in Pakistan needs to play its role in this manner as well, or else we will fast move towards the Islamic Republic of Talibistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 13th, 2011.